packaging and a bit of extras can't hide the fact that the local release
of Japanese cult horror film Uzumaki has two key sequences censored. STEPHEN
TAN tells you what you are missing.
Despite the attractive packaging and extra features like the cast and crew interview and photo gallery, Singapore's Comstar's Uzumaki has two essential sequences that are censored. The first is around the 20-minute mark. A schoolboy, having a crush on one of the schoolgirls, falls to his death. What you do not see is the close-up of the body, particularly the head, and the blood flowing on the floor. Shots of this incident are featured right at the beginning of the film and, later, as a form of a flashback. But it's missing where it counts.
The second key sequence is towards the end of the film where the same schoolboy is crushed under the wheel of a car (okay, the film's internal logic is a little haywire). What is shown is the car hitting the boy. What's missing is a sequence of stills showing the body twisted under the wheel. Audiences are supposed to guess from the reactions of the two leads (at the scene of the accident) that it was a horrifying accident. That it's a horrifying accident is not the point how the body appears, wrapped up around the wheel in a spiral, is the key motif, but viewers will never see that.
Looking at Uzumaki (Spiral/Vortex), you would think that the Japanese have cornered the market on weird. Based on Junji Ito's cult manga (the three-part Pulp paperback is available for US$48.85, see below), Uzumaki is about how the town of Kurouzu-cho and its people are enveloped by a series of spiral-related incidents. By the time you are though with the book, you've seen more spirals than you need to. Likewise for Higuchinsky's film.
opens with schoolgirl Kirie (Eriko Hatsune) who is rushing to meet her
boyfriend, Shuichi (Fhi Fan). On the way, she sees Shuichi's father videotaping
a snail, with the focus on its shell. Then one evening, Shuichi's father
discovers more joys of the spiral when he eats the spiral-designed crabcake
and later meets his death when he climbs into the washing machine to have
that vertigo experience.
are familiar with Junji Ito's manga will know that Higuchinsky was quite
faithful presenting the key images the washing machine death; the
leader of the girl gang with the massive, spiral-style hair, the death
at the wheel; and Shuichi's twisted body at the end (though in the manga
the early appearance of the twisted body belonged to another character).
who built his reputation shooting music videos, scored high marks for
mood and effects the film is surreal and creepy and, at the same
time, visually engrossing he didn't pay much attention to logic
(a usual flaw in horror movies) or the characters. For example, the boy
who died from the fall keeps appearing to Kirie. Is he a ghost? If not,
then what about his death when he is rolled under the wheel? Or how about
this spiral madness? No explanation is given to its origin at least
the manga tries: "Every century or every few centuries, the spiral comes
to haunt this town
and every time it does, the inhabitants build
their town in this shape."
The cut sequences
mean that the Comstar DVD is only good for those who want a taste of what
Uzumaki is about. It may even create an interest in the original manga.
Serious fans will probably need to search out the uncut Universe DVD from
Hongkong. The colours aren't bright (Higuchinsky toned down the colours
to give the film the tone of a TV movie from the '60s) but even then,
the colours are slightly brighter on the Universe disc.
need closure for their films but Uzumaki, like the spiral that inspires
it, can only go on and on. (7 for the Universe DVD)
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